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Once upon a time at Portland State University…

Often Portland State University, in the crush and hustle of city life, feels unrooted from a specific history. Whereas most colleges laud their alumni, soar buildings to new heights with donations from rich and influential donors and constantly remind you of their own important past, PSU steadies itself with its constant focus on the future. The future of technology, the future of the job market (and how prepared the graduates are to enter it) and the future relationship it hopes to secure with the Oregon Legislature. A brief survey of past Vanguard newspapers reveal, though, how Portland State has been a center of regional and national politics, a stage for dramatic human chronicles unfolding before Oregon’s and the nation’s eyes and a central gathering place for citizens who longed-for equal opportunity and representation. Many of the most famous Portland State graduates never returned, seeking fame and influence in other larger and more powerful venues. All examples, however, surely began at this small university – formerly a washed up college (literally) on the banks of the Willamette. Today, PSU still awaits the respect it deserves. Thus far, PSU never has had the time to blow its own horn, although already the largest, most diverse and arguably the most dynamic university in the region. PSU focuses admirably on what is around the corner, but today we take a brief look back.

Ginsberg: May 19, 1967Controversial author and cultural critic Allen Ginsberg performs a poetry reading attended by over 700 people. PSU President Millar attempts to stall the performance by citing inadequate crowd control mechanisms and requiring Ginsberg to sign a proprietary statement vowing not to remove his clothing. Vanguard publishes photograph of partially nude Ginsberg on front page, drawing the ire of President Millar.

Millar: May 31, 1967After the Publications Board affirms their confidence in Vanguard Editor Bill Weissert, PSU President Millar orders the Vanguard to be shut down and copies of the offending issues impounded. His actions stem from his discontent with a partially nude photo of beat poet Allen Ginsberg (see above) among other complaints of the Vanguard’s “vulgar” editorial choices. Ginsberg responds, “I resent President Millar calling the picture vulgar…it’s a picture of me and I don’t consider myself vulgar.” Editor Weissert accused President Millar of pandering to the Oregon Legislature. A concerned group of students and professors rally enough resources to continue publishing as the Independent-Vanguard. Millar resigns in the fall of 1967, causing some to remark that he was an “establishment liberal who lost his cool.” Vanguard resumes school funded publishing in fall of 1967.

Stoudamire: February 22, 1980 The Vanguard reflects on past athletic glory during a present athletic drought. Willie Stoudamire (yes, father of that Potland Trail Blazer, Damon) along with his brother Charlie, Leo Franz and Jerry Stephens dominate PSU basketball in the early 1970’s. They lead the Vikings to an unprecedented winning record. The head coach is Marion Pericin and the gym is known as “blood alley.” Apparently, some things do change.

Volcano: May 30, 1980 PSU Graduates Robert Kaseweter (’66) and Beverly Wetherald (’73), along with an earth sciences department ham radio operator, are caught in Mount St. Helens’ volcanic fury. They are presumed to be dead after not contacting family members for over a week. They were attempting to photograph the eruption.

Protest: May 12, 1970 Military recruitment practices on campus had already caused disagreements to flair between police, peace activists and PSU administration in the late winter of 1970. Thirty-six anti-military recruitment demonstrators were ordered restrained by the court on Thursday, February 26, 1970. The Vanguard responded with a satirical photo essay on “navel recruiting” featuring navel oranges, a hairy male belly button and a female stomach. Things were less humorous just weeks later when PSU President Gregory Wolfe invited military recruiters back on campus after a moratorium on their activities. In late April tension runs high on hundreds of college campuses throughout the nation. Mirroring increasing discontent with American foreign policy and shock at four students being killed at Kent State, a peace strike shatters PSU’s tenuous tranquility in early May of 1970. Barricades and tents are erected on campus. Classes are canceled. 134 faculty members also strike. Frustrated protesters clash with police, who are later resoundingly criticized by community members and the professor’s union. Twenty-seven protesters are hospitalized as a result of alleged police brutality. Many more protesters are arrested for disorderly conduct. One thousand activists march to the mayor’s office demanding police accountability and city cooperation, only to be rebuffed by city hall. The barricade stands for six days before protesters agree to return to classes. Among other accusations, PSU and the Vanguard are accused of harboring communists. With an anxious atmosphere still looming, PSU students finish the Spring term. The Vietnam War ends five years later.